Saturday, December 12, 2009
This leopard is a bad cat (but no feline)
OK, this is my nominee for the weirdest creature south of an editorial board meeting. The Hydrurga leptonyx, or leopard seal is the Antarctic regional bad boy. She (honestly, it's hard to tell the sex) feasts on penguins and the young of other seals and just about any other warm-blooded prey he can get those menacing chompers around. Leopard seals also gorge on squid and krill.
We saw this one lounging on an ice floe floating about 100 yards from a penguin colony and rolling around in a pool of her own urine. Reminds me of that week I spent at Sturgis.
Although it's an ear-less seal, it looks more like what might happen if you mated a snake with a whale, a Doberman with an otter, or Michael Phelps with a tax collector. They are absolutely otherworldly, like something out of the "Alien" movie series banished to the coldest water in the world.
They lumber on land, but they dart like torpedoes of muscle once in water. The sterns of our Zodiac boats have been reinforced because leopard seals have been known to bite through the thick, hard rubber.
The one we encountered today was at least 10 feet long. They can grow to more than 12 feet and weigh well over 800 pounds and don't have particularly cuddly personalities. Can you say mother-in-law?